Friday, April 17, 2020

Riverview Trail

The North Umpqua Trail is to the Riverview Trail what the cruel stepsisters were to Cinderella. While the North Umpqua Trail gets the all the recognition, glory, and a prince's love on the south side of the North Umpqua River, the Riverview languishes on the north side, as forlorn and unappreciated as a sooty scullery maid taking out the kitchen swill. Nonetheless, there are several compelling reasons for hiking on the Riverview and I can't think of a single one. And yes, I'm joking, there really are some good reasons to hike on the Riverview, just give me minute to come up with one.

Dogwood lights up the forest
When the weather is sunny but cold, like in winter, then the Riverview is on the sunny side of the river I'm always so envious about when hiking on the North Umpqua Trail. And while the North Umpqua Trail tends to be closer to the river than the Riverview, the Riverview Trail actually does live up to its name, providing much better vistas of both canyon and river from several hundred feet above.

The Riverview Trail, in all its well-shaded glory
I've generally hiked on the Riverview Trail in winter only, and my general impression was that the trail's only purpose in life was to provide year-round hikers a rather utilitarian hike along the North Umpqua River in winter, when snow debars hiking in the higher elevations. There's not as much wow in the views and the trail when compared to other epic hikes, or at least enough to zazz up jaded hikers like myself. On a positive note though, the trail is relatively flat and the hiking easy, what with the level grade and wide trail tread. And I must say that, after hiking this trail in the middle of spring, well I'll just have to concede the trail itself can be exceedingly beautiful given the right time of the year. 

Maple trees conduct a floral symphony
I got off to a late start just because I'm retired and I can. The day had already warmed up to the 80's by the time I began my hike, the trail stair-stepping past a series of rocky cliffs looming over the trail like some unassailable castle redoubt. Big leaf maple was in full flowering song, its dangling clusters of yellow-green flowers contrasting quite nicely against the deep blue sky above. Blue-belly lizards skittered in the dead leaves underneath the trees, the sound of which never fails to startle me in what is a vestigial response from all my rattlesnake encounters over the years.

The walls of the castle
The initial climb was brisk but short before the path ducked into the forest proper. The Riverview Trail in its former incarnation, was the old highway to Diamond Lake, and accordingly remains a wide double-track path through the trees above the river. Because it was spring, everything was green and I did not tire of seeing grass growing on the old roadbed.  While birds twittered and flittered in the forest undergrowth, and brooks (and me) babbled across the trail, the green and shady trail was the real star of the show on this day.

All hail our state flower!
Once the trail crested at the high point attained within the first half-mile of hiking, it gradually descended down to Bogus Creek. Periodically, the trail would break out into the open, contouring through arid patches of scratchy ceanothus perfuming the air under a baking hot sun. Sun loving plant species such as deep purple-blue larkspur, white coastal manroot, and wee-sized pink baby star, were all happily flowering in the open sunlight while bees buzzed from from flower to flower. It was warm out in the open sunlight and a ground beetle trudged wearily in the heat and I knew just how that beetle felt. 

The ever so smooth Mr. Madrone

Good thing for me then, that the trail was mostly shaded. The majority of the hike was done in mottled light and shade, thanks to all the surrounding conifer, big-leaf maple, and smooth-trunked madrone trees. The jungly vegetation was an indicator that things can get fairly moist here and several creeks crossed the trail with Alder Creek being the most picturesque, as the stream seeped down the face of a mossy rock before tumbling into a small pool.

Shadow play upon Williams Creek
Williams Creek was the largest creek of the bunch, requiring a stout footbridge to get across. Just after Williams Creek, the Williams Creek Trail made an appearance, commencing its mad charge straight uphill for virtually all of its four miles of existence. I've hiked that trail just once and once was enough as it was steep with thick stands of poison oak encroaching over the trail. It provided no views of any creeks or any Williams and has no reason to exist at all. If I ever say something like "Hey, I want to hike the Williams Creek Trail!", a sharp rap right on the forehead with a stout hiking pole should do the trick.

Fire is very much a part of this area
Anyway, I hiked past the trail junction on a rare uphill section of trail. This area of the Riverview has seen plenty of forest fires in the recent past and there was plenty of evidence of wildfire damage, both old and recent. Many of the trees were charred but still well alive, while in other places, thick brush grew at the feet of ghostly snags completely devoid of any life whatsoever. 

A river view from the Riverview
After about four and a half miles of hiking, it was beginning to feel like it was getting on to late afternoon, so I turned around just about a half mile short of Bogus Creek. It was the same old attractive forest on the way back but the walk was generally level with the odd uphill part every now and then. Periodic openings in the forest on the trail's downhill side provided great views of the North Umpqua River coursing at the bottom of its well-forested canyon. A roar louder than the usual river noise reaching my ears up on high advertised the presence of Steamboat Falls, although I couldn't ever get a real good look at the noisy cascade.

Left over from a cougar's dinner
Near the end of the hike, I spotted a deer skull lying next to the rest of its skeleton at what had been the obvious site of a cougar kill. As I walked just a little bit faster past the grisly scene of that crime, I still couldn't help but feel that it had been a great hike on what really was a beautiful trail. The near constant greenery, forest, flowers, and shade made the Riverview Trail a most gracious host. The deer probably would disagree with me on that, though.

Mossy maple tree
For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. Glad to see you are stil out there getting some hikes in......hoping things open up soon so more trails are available. We may try up at Union Creek or over by Lake of the Woods or go back to Ashland again and hike the entire Wonder Trail and connections for a longer hike.

    1. I so wish things could roll back to the way they were!